Everything you need to know about the plot of Dexter's eighth and final season premiere on Showtime, you can actually glean from simply watching the promotional trailer the network released weeks ago. But that is not to say that you shouldn't watch the opening hour, nor that said hour isn't still leg-jiggling and nail-bitingly intense. Though you may know everything that's coming story wise, you still can't adequately prepare for the amount of tension and anxiety you feel when you're thrust back into the world of Miami Metro alongside these characters you have gotten to know so well for the past seven seasons.
It is six months later when we rejoin Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall). He and his sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) are now somewhat estranged, and LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) is being honored with a ceremonial bench, while her job in the precinct has already been filled. Batista (David Zayas) is back on the job, pushing retirement because he was so fired up by his ex-wife and ex-boss' death, while Deb has quit and is working as a freelance P.I. We get most of this information through exposition at the top of the hour because the show wants to spend much more time propelling the characters forward into new situations than rehashing their pasts (even if their most recent past was off-screen for us).
Dexter's life hasn't changed much since his sister shot LaGuerta in that seventh season finale. He's still analyzing blood spatter and crime scenes, still raising Harrison (who has been replaced with a new actor this season) on his own, and still sleeping with the occasional blonde. Without LaGuerta breathing down his neck at work or about his "other" work, he actually seems a bit lighter than usual and has even let his hair down, so to speak, to get the bowling team back together (if we were you, we'd look for lots of fun nods to the earliest days of Dexter in this final season-- another one comes later with an air conditioning unit). Miami Metro's newest case has even dumped another serial killer in his lap-- someone who scoops out little pieces of his victims' brains as souvenirs. He's clearly someone worthy of Dexter's table and yet, his interest in the psyche might make him someone Dexter can learn from, as well.
But in many ways all of those things are just distractions because Dexter has one very big problem: Debra. She's not answering his calls; her voicemail is full; and she hasn't shown up to her new job in a few weeks. Dexter's life may have been unchanged by adding another body, if not blood slide, to his collection, but Debra's was forever altered. She's jittery; you can literally see her mind and heart racing behind her eyes, and from more than just the drugs she's been doing while on her new "case." She's spiraling, on an emotional and literal bender, and when Dexter sees just how bad of shape she's in, it's sure to break him a little bit, too.
There is a brief allusion that Batista, in his hoarding of LaGuerta's things, may inadvertently stumble onto her evidence against Dexter-- and even Debra-- at some point in the season, too. While this is nowhere near on Dexter's radar right now, it is something to consider as a member of the audience. Often it is when you think you've truly gotten away with something that the hammer is dropped after all. After every time that Dexter has outsmarted or outworked Miami Metro to get their guy first, it might just be poetic for him not to see one of them coming this time. Or it may mean nothing at all.
For a brief moment, Dexter's eighth season premiere also appears to be playing by the rules of a trilogy: a number character pops up to potentially rewrite part of that past-- another detour for Dexter just when he thought his life was finally perfectly back on track. This comes in the form of a trusted confidante of Dexter's dear old dad, Harry (James Remar). It turns out he did not write the code by which his son acted out his "Dark Passenger urges" after all; instead, it was the work and perhaps experiment of sorts of a psychologist, Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling), who first turns up at the precinct to help lend expertise on the new serial killer stalking the residents of Miami, only to reveal herself to know exactly who and what Dexter is-- because she helped make him that way. Though the majority of the people who have learned the truth about Dexter have turned up dead, this particular one doesn't pose herself a threat but rather a vulnerable older woman who actually needs his help because she is being stalked. If he wanted to eliminate the problem of exposure, he'd just let the serial killer take her out; he wouldn't even have to get his own hands dirty. Dr. Vogel isn't here to be a repetitive part of Dexter's story, though; she labeled a much younger Dexter Morgan years ago, and through her surprised eyes now, meeting the man he became, she may have to face the fact that she was wrong about him and how "doomed" he was.
The audience of Dexter has spent seven years watching this man grow, even if slowly. He has had his moments of lashing out, of making mistakes, of putting others or even fear of what could befall others ahead of himself and even his code. He has proven himself not to be the pure sociopath he once had resigned himself to be-- most likely because of what Harry had ingrained in him while teaching him the code. We have seen the whole package of Dexter, but he has never granted himself the same objectivity. Through Dr. Vogel's eyes and expertise, though, he just may have to. And then what? Will it be too late for him? Will he regret the way he lived his life and become obsessed with the "What if?" Or will he finally find peace having more tangible proof he is human after all? Really this show could reboot itself with any one of those possibilities after this season, and we'd want to watch more to see where it goes. But since we know this is the final season for sure, it just seems that much more special that it's still going out on such a strong note while still bringing the character and his internal struggle full circle with where it all began.